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Copyright: Although the main characters in the following do bear a strong resemblance to a cute couple with whom we are all familiar, all the characters in this work of fiction are the product of my own imagination and are therefore copyright to me.

For the rest of the disclaimers, please see the first chapter

Hunting Season

by Helen Smith, September, 2000

Chapter 7

Ariel heard the shower running then some more noise from the bathroom. It sounded as if Quinn was in a hurry. Leaving her desk she wandered across the hall to see.

Quinn, a towel tied around her, was rubbing her hair dry with another.

"What's up?"

"Huh? Oh, hi Love. I've got to go downtown to follow up on something. Kris will be by to keep you company while I'm gone." Quinn absently mindedly dropped the towel she'd been using on her hair and grabbed the dryer.

Ariel picked the discarded towel off the floor and dropped it in the clothes hamper, making a mental note to take everything down to be washed later in the day. Whatever Quinn was following up, it must be something important to distract her this much--she was usually pretty tidy.

Judging that her hair was dry enough, Quinn switched off the dryer, left it on the counter and ran her hands through her mane a couple of times. Satisfied, she stepped around Ariel and walked into their bedroom. The writer followed. Absentmindedly dropping the second towel, Quinn pulled on underwear then added a pair of faded blue jeans. Ariel snatched up the towel while she watched Quinn slip on socks and boots and then contemplate her shirts.

"So what's the big hurry?" Ariel enjoyed watching the muscles ripple and shift under the bronze skin of Quinn's back, arms and shoulders as she selected a black shirt and slid it on.

"Just something that might lead somewhere. Gotta run things down as they come up, ya know." Quinn strapped on the holster, checked the Glock and shoved it home. The doorbell rang. "Oh, must be Kris." She left the room and hurried down the stairs, with Ariel following. Using the video monitor, Quinn checked first, but still drew her gun before opening the door and letting in the compact, brown-haired woman.

"Ok." she said as she slipped on her coat, "I'll probably be gone a couple of hours. We're not expecting anyone so there shouldn't be any reason to go to the door. Ariel, do what Kris says. Kris, look after her."

"Yes ma'am," they chorused as the door closed behind the security consultant.

"Well," Ariel said turning to the other woman. "I was just thinking of making some tea. Would you like some?"

"Lead the way."

As the Mark 5 headed out into traffic Quinn thought about the first time she and Kris had guarded Ariel. After the shopping mission that almost did her in, she and the author had gone back to Ariel's house. While the honey blonde made some tea, Quinn checked in with her assistant, giving her instructions for the evening shift .

"Ok, I got all that. So tell me, how have things gone so far? Does she do what she's told?"

"Ah, well, pretty much." Quinn walked into the hall away from Ariel's hearing.

"Pretty much?"

"She wanted to go shopping today and wouldn't let me argue her out of it so we went shopping. Other than that she's been fine."

"Ok." There was a pause. "So is she as cute as her dust jacket photos?"

Quinn looked around, didn't see Ariel but moved further into the house, just to be sure. "Better." She didn't like discussing clients (
but she's not the client, said her voice) except for necessary information such as if they would obey without question in an emergency.

"Real-ly," drawled the woman at the other end of the call. "This might be fun."

"Look but don't touch," said Quinn.

"You gonna try to stop me?"

"No, I'll leave that to Michelle."

"Hmm, good point. Guess I'll be good." Kris' lover, Michelle, was known as a woman not to be trifled with. "So, can you get a read on her?"

"A read on her?"

"Yeah. How does she like being guarded by a living, breathing, lesbian wet dream?"


The woman at the other end of the call burst into laughter. "Hey. Don't try to deny it. I know you've used it often enough."

Quinn felt a silly grin form, but she kept her voice serious. "Kris, I expect you here at 8:00pm sharp."

The other woman, undaunted by her boss' manner, replied "Ja wohl, mein commandant."

"Hey!" exclaimed Quinn. "Have you been watching my copies of 'Hogan's Heroes' again?"

"Well if you leave them around the office, how can I help it?"

"That office also happens to be my apartment."

"Oh. Is that why they were all lined up on that shelf?" asked the other woman innocently.

"Don't ever try to use that act in front of a judge, Kris. She'll tack on another 20 years on general principles."

Loud laughter was the response. "Okay. You got me. I'll be there at 8:00."

Quinn leaned back in the seat and checked outside. Almost there. She'd called ahead to make sure Edward would be in, but she hadn't indicated why she wanted to see him.

The Mark 5 entered the street on which McQuarry's was located, but found no parking, which didn't surprise Quinn. She directed it to take a right and then instructed it to enter the first underground lot she saw. Since the parking area served three adjacent buildings, including the one occupied by the publishing company, Quinn was able to locate an elevator and ride to the publisher's floor in short order.

"Ms. Thanatos, Mr. McQuarry said to go right in."

Quinn nodded at the woman and stepped through the office door, shutting it behind her. Edward, who was at his desk, looked up and smiled. "Quinn, my dear. Come in. Have a seat. May I ask Julia to bring you some coffee?"

"Edward." Quinn acknowledged. Although she'd been ready to dispense with all civilities before entering the office, she reminded herself that Edward deserved a chance to explain. At least before she hung him, that is. "Let's forget the coffee, Edward, and cut to the chase. Why the life insurance policy?"

The snowy-haired man on the other side of the desk looked at her for a second, then said, "I take it this is related to the threat Ariel received. That's pretty good leg work, my dear. But then again it doesn't surprise me."

"Quit stalling, Edward."

"Not at all. Not at all." Edward took off his glasses, laid them on his desk and looked at her again. "The policy covers us in case anything happens to Ariel. Particularly since she is about to publish another book that will certainly do very well, and is working on a new one that I expect will do even better."

"So you expect you'll make $2.5 million out of her latest one?"

"Actually, my dear, I believe that estimate is somewhat low. The policy was taken out some months ago while she was still working on the one about to be published. Based on prepublication reviews, I'd say that were I to do it today I'd go $3 million. By the way, I can show you memos to support the figures."

"Memos can be faked."

"Yes they can. I'm not denying it. You'll just have to take my word for it."

Quinn studied his face. He seemed to be telling the truth. Of course, at his age he'd had plenty of time to learn how to lie convincingly.

"So what about this libel case you lost. Seems to me that could compromise your financial position."

"It will certainly hurt us, but my answer is to publish a bestseller as soon as humanly possible. I think Ariel's latest will help a great deal. We'll go through a rough patch, certainly. We're a small company. But I think this time next year we'll be back on a firm path." The publisher stood up from behind his desk. "So Quinn, in answer to your unasked, but very obvious question, did I send or arrange to have sent that threatening note as part of a complicated plot to kill Ariel and collect much needed cash? No. Speaking from a business viewpoint, she's much more valuable to me alive. And speaking personally, I would never contemplate such a thing, even if I didn't love her like a daughter."

Quinn stood up. She could feel the tips of her ears turn red with embarrassment. She believed him, and she'd hurt the old buzzard by suspecting him. Shit! "I'm sorry Edward."

The old man smiled. "It's alright. I have to admit I was taken aback when I first realized what you were suggesting, but on reflection, I'm glad you're looking out for Ariel yet again. If anyone can stop this person, I believe you can." He held out his hand. "Still friends?"

Quinn gave him a small smile and took the proffered hand. "Still friends."

"Good." Now would you like some coffee?"

She grinned then, but said "Sorry, but I have to get back. I took someone off something else to come down here and I want to free her up as soon as possible. Thanks for seeing me."

"Any time, my dear. Any time."

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